Sunday, 27 May 2012

Is Barkha Dutt scared of ministers?

Around a month back, while surfing television channels, I stopped for some time to watch ‘We, the nation,’ a programme on NDTV.

Barkha Dutt moderates the debate programme.

The topic was Sachin Tendulkar’s nomination to Rajya Sabha.

One of the experts in the debate was 75-year-old Ashis Nandy.

According to Wikipedia – ‘Ashis Nandy is an Indian political psychologist, a social theorist, and a contemporary cultural and political critic. A trained sociologist and clinical psychologist, his body of work covers a variety of topics, including public conscience, mass violence, and dialogues of civilizations.’

He was Senior Fellow and Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) for several years. Today, he is a Senior Honorary Fellow at the institute and apart from being the Chairperson of the Committee for Cultural Choices and Global Futures, also in New Delhi.’

I was a bit surprised when I saw Barkha Dutt addressing the elderly Nandy by his first name. She would ask, ‘Ashis, do you feel......?’ Before he could complete his answer, Barkha Duut shot another question to another expert; as usual. I thought – Couldn’t Barkha Dutt have addressed Nandy as Mr. Nandy?

Now there are two points. First – nowadays we are no more formal in our conduct. Now it has become a fashion to address a person by his or her first name. We do not address a person by his or her surname after adding Mr., Ms. Or Mrs. to it. Second – Barkha Dutt is one of the greatest contemporary journalists of India and can address Nandy by his first name.

(I was also surprised when I noticed that Barkha Dutt has changed her style of moderating. Instead of pirouetting from expert to expert, asking questions to them and thrusting microphones into their mouths, she was anchored to or remained squatted at one place throughout the debate.)

Earlier this year, Barkha Dutt interviewed Salman Rushdie at length after the writer’s visit to India to participate in Jaipur Literary Festival was cancelled.

Barkha Dutt kept on asking question after question, but Rushdie, sitting in a studio in London, answered all her questions very patiently.

I do not know the reason but I had always thought that Rushdie was a short-tempered man. I was thinking that he would get irritated with the questions and answer petulantly and gruffly.

I was wrong. I found Rushdie gentle. Instead of getting irritated, he spoke at length, in his soft voice. There was no sign of petulance or irritation, either on his face or in his voice.

I had continued watching the interview. I was a bit surprised then also, when I noticed Barkha Dutt addressing Rushdie as Salman again and again in her questions.

Barkha Dutt, for example, in her high-pitched voice had asked, ‘Salman, do you feel threatened?’ Before he could finish the answer, she shot another question, ‘Salman, will you visit India?’ Rushdie was not even able to say yes or no when she again asked, ‘Salman, when will you visit India?’

I was surprised by Barkha Dutt’s conduct because Rushdie is a bona fide Sir. His full name is Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie. He was knighted in 2007.

Couldn’t Barkha have shown some respect to Rushdie? Couldn’t she have called him Mr. Rushdie if not Sir Salman?

I concluded that Barkha is too casual in her behaviour and calls everybody by his or her first name.

Youtube proved me wrong.

Going through the website, I came across some videos of another NDTV programme ‘The buck stops here.’

In the programme Barkha Dutt interviews ministers and politicians. I watched three videos of the programme in which Barkha Dutt has interviewed home minister P Chidambaram, law minister Salman Khurshid and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh.

I was expecting Barkha Dutt would address them as Chidambaram, Salman and Digvijay. I was wrong. Barkha Dutt addressed them as Mr. Chidambaram, Mr. Khurshid and Mr. Singh.

Why is she not casual with the ministers? Why the double standards? Or is Barkha Dutt scared of the ministers or people who wield power?


  1. Why should anyone in India call someone by a title given by a foreign country? Have you ever heard anyone in the UK address Tendulkar as Padma Shri Tendulkar? Hell, have you ever heard any Indian refer to him as Padma Shri Tendulkar?

    Arif Attar

    1. Sorry for the delay. But don't we say Sir Syed Ahmed...

  2. You don't refer to your master by his first name :-)


  3. She needs a lesson on etiquette from BBC presenters.